9 Top Healthy Summer Foods
Summer is the season of fire and the foods we eat can help keep us cool. Here are 9 recommendations from Dr. Mercola listed with many of their health benefits. (Condensed Version)
Packed with nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that help protect against free radical damage.
Perfect for adding to salads, they don’t take up much space and you can grow your own quite easily
Sunflower seed and pea shoot which are typically about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables.
They’re also among the highest in protein. In addition, sunflower seeds contain healthy fats, essential fatty acids, and fiber—all of which are important for optimal health.
Dr. Mercolas’ Sprout Doctor Starter Kit comes with what I consider to be three of the best sprouts to grow – sunflower shoots, broccoli sprouts, and pea shoots. When grown in soil, you can harvest your sprouts in about a week, and a pound of seeds will probably produce over 10 pounds of sprouts.
- Watermelon (and Other Melons)
Watermelon is more than 91 percent water.2 This means that eating watermelon on a hot summer day is a tasty way to help you stay hydrated and avoid dehydration. Watermelon is also an excellent source of lycopene, with upwards of 6,500 micrograms in less than half a cup.
Lycopene’s antioxidant activity has long been suggested to be more powerful than that of other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene. In one study, after controlling for other stroke risk factors, such as older age and diabetes, they found that men with the highest blood levels of lycopene were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest.3
Watermelon also contains citrulline, which in your body is converted into L-arginine, which is a precursor to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide may help your vessels stay relaxed and open for blood flow, which is one reason why it may help lower blood pressure.
Like watermelon, cucumbers are made up of mostly (95 percent) water, making them an ideal hydrating and cooling food. Cucumbers may also help to “cool” the inflammatory response in your body, according to raw-food advocate David Wolfe.
Animal studies also suggest that cucumber extract helps reduce unwanted inflammation, in part by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes (including cyclo-oxygenase 2, or COX-2).4
There’s good reason to regularly include tomatoes, another cooling food, in your diet, as they are rich in flavonoids and other phytochemicals that have anti-carcinogenic and other healthy properties.
They’re also an excellent source of lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C (which is most concentrated in the jelly-like substance that surrounds the seeds) as well as vitamins A, E and B-complex vitamins, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Tomatoes are also a particularly concentrated source of lycopene. In addition to lowering your risk of stroke, lycopene from tomatoes (including unsweetened organic tomato sauce) has also been shown to be helpful in treating prostate cancer. If you eat tomatoes, choose organic varieties. One study found growing tomatoes according to organic standards results in dramatically elevated phenols content compared to tomatoes grown conventionally, using agricultural chemicals.
The organic tomatoes were found to contain 55 percent more vitamin C and 139 percent more total phenolic content at the stage of commercial maturity compared to the conventionally grown tomatoes.6
Rhubarb is high in fiber, which is why it’s long been used in TCM for soothing stomach ailments and relieving constipation. A one-cup serving of rhubarb provides high levels of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium, along with folate, riboflavin, niacin, B vitamins, and pantothenic acid. Rhubarb also provides important minerals, including manganese, iron, potassium, and phosphorus.
NOTE: Remember, only the stalks can be eaten; rhubarb leaves are poisonous due to high levels of oxalic acid.
- Dandelion Leaves
Dandelion leaves contain vitamins A, C, and K, along with calcium, iron, manganese, and potassium. They also have antioxidant properties and contain bitter crystalline compounds called taraxacin and taracerin, along with inulin and levulin, compounds thought to explain some of its therapeutic properties. Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, soups, juiced, cooked the same way as spinach, or dried (with flowers) to make dandelion tea (try it iced in the summer!).
- Citrus Fruits
Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are all beneficial to add to your summer diet. They’re rich in fiber and vitamin C and also contain additional antioxidants known as flavonoids that may play a beneficial role in fighting heart disease, cancer, and inflammation.
Bananas contain dopamine, a natural reward chemical that boosts your mood. They’re also rich in B vitamins, including vitamin B6, which help soothe your nervous system, and magnesium, another nutrient associated with positive mood.
Last but not least, watercress is another cooling vegetable that’s perfect for a hot summer day. It may actually be the most nutrient-dense vegetable out there, scoring higher on nutrient density scores than both broccoli and sunflower sprouts. Based on 17 nutrients— including potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K— watercress scored a perfect 100 in a study titled, “Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach.”9
This plant has such a strong history of healing prowess that Hippocrates is said to have located the first hospital on the island of Kos close to a stream so that fresh watercress could be harvested for patients (watercress grows in water). Greek soldiers also reportedly ate it as a health tonic prior to going into battle.10